Criminal Cases Review Commission
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CCRC to refer 39 Post Office cases on abuse of process argument

The Criminal Cases Review Commission has so far decided to refer for appeal the convictions of 39 Post Office applicants. 

The Commission will be referring all those cases, which involve convictions for theft, fraud and false accounting, on the basis of the argument that each prosecution amounted to an abuse of process. (The details of the individual cases being referred are listed at the end of this release). 

The abuse of process argument is based on issues with the Post Office’s Horizon computer system which may have had an impact on the cases referred. 

The argument arises out of two civil court judgments – the Common Issues Judgment of the 15th March 2019 (Bates v Post Office [2019] EWHC 606 (QB)), and particularly the Horizon Issues Judgment handed down on the 16th December 2019 (Bates v Post Office [2019] EWHC 3408 (QB)). 

The CCRC can only refer a case for appeal if it considers that there is new evidence or new argument that raises a real possibility that the appeal court will quash the conviction(s). 

The 39 cases to be referred are among a total of 61[1] applications to the CCRC from Post Office applicants. 

In relation to the remaining 22 cases, the CCRC has further work to do before it will be in a position to announce decisions as to whether or not it can refer those cases. 

Those involved in the Post Office cases at the CCRC will continue their work and the decision-making committee will convene again as necessary so that the remaining decisions can be made and communicated as soon as possible. 

Unusually, and because of the Covid-19 situation, the CCRC decision making committee met virtually using remote access IT technology over two days on the 24th and 25th March.

The referrals will be formally made when the appropriate papers are sent to the relevant appeal courts (36 cases will be referred to the Court of Appeal as convictions obtained in Crown Court, and three will be referred to the Crown Court as magistrates’ court convictions). Covid-19 restrictions may mean that that process may now take a some time to complete. 

Helen Pitcher, Chairman of the Criminal Cases Review Commission, said:

“This is by some distance the largest number of cases we will ever have referred for appeal at one time. Our team has got through a huge amount of work, particularly since the judgment in December,  in order to identify the grounds on which we are referring these cases. 

“The Covid-19 situation threatened to delay things but we used an IT solution to resolve that and we will continue to do whatever we need to in order to make decisions in the remaining cases as quickly as we reasonably can.”

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